Music can be the best form of therapy for kids with special needs, such as those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and autism, among others. Getting to focus and making sure they complete the tasks given to them are some of the essential lessons they learn when they enroll in music classes. But it is not an easy task for the teacher, as any Special Education and Development (SPED) teacher would attest to you. Lack of attention of the student is your number one enemy as a teacher, and when you deal with kids who can’t focus beyond 5, 10, or 15 minutes, the task for you is on how you are going to engage the student for as long as you can.
The challenge for you is to devise ways on how you are going to get the lesson going. While textbooks and curriculum might help, it is safe to say that this line of teaching is not for everybody. Some teachers can’t understand kids with special needs, and they don’t dare to go beyond their comfort zones. Aside from passion, a deep understanding for kids is what you need to be successful as a teacher for children with special needs. Conventional methods won’t work because these are designed in 45 to 1-hour blocks, and for sure, it will be hard for those with special needs to cope up.
Therefore, before delving into this role, ask yourself if you are ready for the many challenges ahead. You need certifications and training to be a duly certified music teacher for kids with special needs, and you also have to go through checks and get ids like the “working with children” permit. There are many steps to take, but if this is your passion, then all the effort will surely be worth it.
Are you one of the few who is up for the challenge? If the answer is “yes,” then read on for some tips to help you with your music teaching career for children with special needs:
1. Have a meeting with the parents before the class
Having a short meeting with the parents or guardians before you start with your first class is very important, so you understand the child better. Every child is different, so you must know what are his/her strengths and weaknesses so you can design your lessons based on this information. Remember, as well, the child’s interests, so you can build rapport with the student. It is also essential to know the foremost distractions for the child, so you can make sure that you avoid these during voice coaching class. Aside from these, many kids with special needs have medications and medical conditions, so ask for a list as well. You want to be well-informed of the needs of the student before going to the class, so you know what to do in cases of emergency.
When you get this information from the parents or guardians, it is now time for you to talk. Share with the parent what they should be expecting from your class, and how you are going to structure the lessons. It is crucial for parents to know this, so they get to understand the process of learning for their kids. Also, when they are informed of the curriculum, they will stop comparing their child’s progress with others. You will also tell them of possible homework that you will be assigning to the child, so parents are prepared for this when the child goes home.
For sure, no teacher would want to be told off by the parent that he/she is being too hard on the student. Some kids are sensitive, so what might seem reasonable to you may not be for the child. To back you up in cases like these, you can even record your every lesson, so should issues arise, you can have these recordings as proof.
Talking in person is the best way to have this meeting with the parents or guardians. If they are busy and cannot allow time for this talk, you can have their representative meet you. Having this meeting over the phone cannot, in any way, replicate a face-to-face meeting. It is also an excellent chance for everyone to meet, and this is important for you, as a teacher, and the family when teaching kids with special needs.
2. Let go of long lessons
Generally, the attention span of children with special needs is short. Therefore, there is no point for you to go with classes that go for 45 minutes to one hour. This duration will only bore the student, and both of you will just be wasting your time.
You may feel like you are not doing enough as a teacher if you choose to keep lessons short, but in fact, it is all you ever need. To be effective, you need to make sure that your classes go perfectly with the student. An ideal course would be a maximum of 30 minutes. Anything beyond that will only be pointless.
So, the challenge for you now is to create a class that is of high-quality so that, even though it is short, the student can learn a lot from the lesson.
Teaching music to kids with special needs can be tough, but you will find that it is one of the most rewarding things you can do in your career. Do not let fear take over you because you will see that your students and their parents will be the most supportive of what you do.